Venisi Faletau was just 10 days away from graduating boot camp when the Twin Towers were attacked on September 11, 2001. At the time, he didn’t have access to a TV or the news – he wasn’t even sure where the Towers were – but he knew that this moment was the reason he joined the United States Marine Corps.
“They lined us up and told us, ‘If you want to quit, stay seated.’ I stood up,” Faletau remembers. “I was all in. I was going no matter what; I wasn’t going back home.”
Faletau was deployed a year and a half later. He went on to serve in the military for 12 years: five years active duty in the Marine Corps and seven years in the United States Navy Reserves. He served two tours to Iraq with the Marines and one to Afghanistan with the Navy, and has been stationed throughout the world. In 2014, he joined GM Financial in Arlington, TX.
To recognize and celebrate those who protect our freedom and serve our country, we want to share this story about a veteran employed at GM Financial. Below, get to know more about Venisi Faletau and learn what protecting our freedom means to him.
Why did you join the military?
I wanted to make a difference and to see the world. Originally, I was going to join the Air Force. My friend had just gotten back from boot camp with the Marines and told me what it was about. I signed up with the Marine Corps and left three weeks later.
What was it like having so much responsibility at such a young age?
I left a 19-year-old kid and came back a Marine. In high school, you always have someone to hold your hand. It was a moment of realization that I wasn’t a high school kid anymore. I had to grow up fast. I was on my own now.
What were your duties?
I was a cook in the Marine Corps. When we were deployed, I was part of the QRF (Quick Reaction Force), which meant if we were attacked, we were the first responders.
In the Navy, I was a communications specialist. We monitored vehicles and communicated with commanders. When I got called to Afghanistan, I was part of the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team), which is a team of handpicked people from different units selected to serve together.
Can you share some of the situations you witnessed and what you learned from those experiences?
I think people take freedom for granted. It’s a term that’s loosely used. When I went to Iraq for the first time in December 2002, I was deployed to WESTPAC (Western Pacific). It was a six-month deployment in the Marine Corps. It was my first time representing myself as a Marine in other countries, and I saw all walks of life.
The second tour I did in 2004, I went to Fallujah. I left on my mom’s birthday. I just remember that they gave us all these forms to fill out for who to notify in case of emergency. The scariest moment for me is when I had to fill out one piece of paper saying who would be a pallbearer if I died. That freaked me out.
When I was deployed to Afghanistan, my unit did presence patrols for the local villagers in the Jaghori District, a small city located outside of Ghanzi. I was able to work with an orphanage and teach the children how to play cards and basketball. The families there were kind and welcomed us into their homes. We ate dinner with the families, and the people at the orphanage even sewed blankets for us.
What was the biggest lesson you learned?
The service taught me to take pride in everything that I do, and to lead by example – all the time. It also taught me how to stand up for myself and what I believe in, and to do the right thing even when no one is listening.
Was the military a rite of passage for you?
It was my chance to prove myself, to make a difference. Everybody told me don’t do it, or you can’t do it. My dad told me to not give up.
What do you miss about the military?
I miss the camaraderie. Part of me would go back. I love what I do now, but I love that I was making a difference. I’ll never forget the feeling of being celebrated by so many people. Putting on the uniform every day, tying up those boots É That meant something.
GM Financial recognizes the important contributions that our servicemen and women have made. We are committed to recruiting, hiring and retaining veterans as part of our diverse workforce. Learn more about our Culture to Win and find career opportunities.
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